Thursday, October 16, 2008

Waiting for the Rains

Waiting for the rains. The whole of Johannesburg has been waiting for the rains. They should have started by now. October is the month for the rains to begin…but nothing comes. Barely a cloud graces the sky. We move slowly as the unrelenting sun beats down on us. It is so hot. So very scorchingly hot. The ground is baked brown, the grasses are stubble. We hear that the rains have come to Cape Town and Durban, but Johannesburg still waits.

Then tonight, as I sit working, I hear a rumble. Is someone moving furniture? Or is it thunder? I move outside to listen. The tell-tale flash of lightening splits the sky. The thunder grows more ominous. The first fat drops of rain raise the scent of dust as they hit the thirsty soil. I wait for the deluge, for the real rain to drench me as I stand expectantly with my face lifted toward the roiling clouds.

But nothing happens. The thunder dies away. The lightening disappears. The dust remains. The drops of rain evaporate without a trace.

Waiting for change. The whole of South Africa has been waiting for change. The people think that the changes should have occurred by now…for it has been a decade since independence…but it is too little, too late. There are new cement block homes built in the outskirts of Alexandra, but they are far out numbered by homes fashioned from tin and wire. There is freedom of movement, but not freedom from prejudice. There are more opportunities, but in a country where 30% is a passing grade in school, not enough people are adequately prepared to take advantage of those opportunities.

And so, we hear the thunder roar. Mbeki steps down from the presidency. The ANC threatens to split into two parties. Zuma, the heir apparent to the presidency, threatens violence against those who would oppose his control. The lightening of xenophobia rips across the land, leaving many innocent dead. There is roiling anger which rumbles through the townships as the frustration mounts. Change comes in small drops, not enough to satisfy the parched throats of those who hunger and thirst for justice.

We still have confidence that the rains will come eventually, but the changes? Will they come, too?

The children hope for the future. They sit before me and exude hope for their futures. I am surrounded by aspiring engineers, social workers and entrepreneurs who believe in the opportunities that await them. These children are not bitter about their government. They speak with pride about their country. When I ask the children what makes South Africa special they use words like, freedom, culture, opportunity, diversity. As I watch these talented and beautiful children learn new skills, open up to new ideas and adventurously plunge forward into the world of Infinite Family, I wonder…when does all this hopefulness become bitterness? What makes the optimism wilt away?

But like the rains, we must water their hope and nourish their optimism. We must be the rain that feeds their parched souls as they hunger for attention, advice and affirmation. For without the rain of love that we can offer, there will be a drought of hope in this land of South Africa.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Didn’t a wise South African man named Ghandi say that? Proud culture. Proud history. Bright future?

Hoping with you...and waiting for the rains!


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